Flashback to August 2011. Ocean County Emergency Management officials and municipal coordinators from most of the 33 towns gathered at Robert J. Miller Airpark to discuss the rapidly advancing Hurricane Irene.
Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari was at the dais, along with Capt. Michael A. Armstrong from the Ocean County Sheriff's Office, the late Undersheriff Wayne R. Rupert and a host of other officials.
But one person wasn't there.
The county's chief emergency management coordinator had been carefully excluded from the meeting. That's because - according to top sources - they didn't think Polhemus would be able to handle the press conference.
The 84-year-old sheriff has been a no-show throughout much of 2012. Berkeley Patch contacted his office five times this fall to interview him for an election preview.
"The sheriff isn't here right now." "The sheriff is in a meeting."
"How long will he be in the meeting?"
Berkeley Patch made several calls to GOP Chairman George R. Gilmore, who said he would "reach out" to the sheriff. Nothing.
Polhemus also declined to debate his opponents.
I was present at an Asbury Park Press editorial board meeting with the sheriff at least a dozen years ago in the Toms River bureau. Polhemus back then was being challenged by Ronald Palmeri, a young sheriff's officer with some good proposals for the stagnant department.
Polhemus arrived late, with Undersheriff William T. Sommeling at his side. One of Sommeling's many duties back in those days was to follow up most statements Polhemus made with the disclaimer "I think what the sheriff meant to say was ..."
Polhemus arrived with a Macy's shopping bag bulging with papers. Sommeling was told that since this was an editorial board meeting between the two candidates, he would not be allowed to speak. His face fell and so did the sheriff's.
The sheriff was thrown a softball question to open the editorial board meeting. He was asked what his department's total budget was for that year.
"Oh, you would have to ask me that," he said, with a grimace. He began yanking paper after paper out of the Macy's bag.
It's the worst-kept secret in Toms River that Polhemus is not up to another term. GOP officials continue to play the party's version of The Emperor's New Clothes and act like things are fine.
They are not.
That was underscored again when catastrophic Hurricane Sandy struck last week. Silence from the sheriff, except for a few canned quotes supposedly from Polhemus, penned by the Ocean County Office of Public Information in press releases that few read.
Polhemus was named as a classic double-dipper in a recent report by njwatchdog.com. He's pulling in over $160,000 a year in salary and pension payments.
Back in the 1990s, he cheerfully admitted to the Asbury Park Press that he had asked the Seaside Heights Borough Council to jack up his salary the last few years of his employment so he'd have a heftier pension. But it didn't seem to matter. He was handily re-elected.
This year, Freeholder John P. Kelly had wanted to make a run for the sheriff's race, but said he would not challenge a "sitting" sheriff.
Here's a prediction.
Polhemus will probably win handily over Democratic George "Bob" Armstrong and Independent Robert McMenamin.
Rock-ribbed Republican Ocean County once re-elected Franklin P. Fisher as surrogate, even though he had been dead for weeks. And some time after the election, Polhemus will announce he is stepping down for health reasons unless. That leaves the door open for another patronage appointment.
Same old, same old.